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Blackhead Extractors: Miracle Tool or Skincare No-No?

By Amalah

Amalah, thanks to you I have fallen in love with all things Philosophy and, awhile back, you gave me some awesome advice about how to deal with the dark circles under my eyes. Sure, my bank balance is a little lower but I’m much happier when I leave the house each morning so it all balances out, right?

The other day I was watching one of those make-over shows on TV and saw a doctor use a blemish extractor during a facial. It seemed simple enough — clear out all that blackhead gunk and have clearer skin — and I thought, “Hey, I have problems with blackheads on my nose and never have any luck with those Biore nose strips so maybe I’ll give an extractor a shot!” My skin is generally pretty clear (thank you Purity face wash!) but my nose always looks, I dunno, ruddy? Unclean? Dalmatian-esque? I was all set to buy one online but then I started Googling and people on message boards were all “blahblahblah my pores looked hugemongous after extracting” and that doesn’t sound so great either.

So what are your thoughts on blemish extractors, Amalah? Yay? Nay?

-Miranda

Big old NAY from me, especially at home. I’ve had extractions done during facials, and honestly think they are more trouble than they’re worth. Painful, tedious, and the results last for…oh, all of 24 hours or so. They’re like an invasive Biore strip — sure does sound like a brilliant idea, but the results are temporary and kind of disappointing.
extractor.jpg
I do own an extractor (link to a different one here), however — I bought it ages ago, thinking that I’d be able to extend the results of a facial at home. And frankly, it messed my skin up terribly. Inferior tool? Bad technique? Possibly, but it definitely taught me the value of going easy on my quick-to-overcompensate-in-the-oil-department skin. Forcefully squeezing out gunk below the surface has all the benefits of popping zits — which is to say, not many. And done badly (i.e. at home), it will often make things worse. You can spread bacteria, injure skin cells, cause infection, etc. I’d say it’s a technique best left for the professionals.

I keep my extractor on hand in case of emergencies — like a really prominent or painful blackhead ever appears. I have no problems with going after the occasional problem pore now and then. But if I find myself getting extraction-happy, I usually wake up the next morning with red, angry skin and a full-on pimple.

I’ve actually gone to spas that make a big deal over NOT doing extractions, and I’ve listened to estheticians rail against the practice. I won’t stop someone from doing extractions during a facial if it’s part of the deal, but I don’t really enjoy them. I don’t think they make my pores look bigger, but that’s probably because an esthetician knows to seal up pores post-facial with a cold compress (something I’m guessing the message-board chatters neglected to do). But no matter what I do afterwards — masks, toners, creams or cleansers — my chin and nose revert back to their vaguely congested, default state within a day or two afterwards.

Maybe if I had the time and money to get a facial and an extraction done every week I’d be able to keep the results, but…no. That’s not happening. I like getting a facial about twice a year, and then I stick to my own gentle and non-pinching anti-blackhead routine: a gentle for-all-skin-types cleanser, an exfoliating moisturizer for congested skin, and a pore-minimizing foundation primer.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Meghan
Guest

Yay, I’ve been hoping you’d tackle this question. I almost wrote in with it myself, but I assumed your answer would be “NO! STAY AWAY!” so I kept my mouth shut. Until now. I bought one about a year ago, and my sisters were horrified. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever, I couldn’t believe how much gunk I got out of my nose (on the sides of the nostrils, gross!) Like Amy, I learned my lesson. It was oddly satisfying initially, but I found that it made my face a big hot mess when I went nuts… Read more »

heels
Guest

I keep one around for, like Amy says, the occasional painful blackhead, but I find that its better use is for my husband who suffers from ingrown hair problems in his beard area.
Worth having, but just like Meghan says: Use Sparingly!

amymvr
Guest
amymvr

Oooh, that’s a good idea for the ear thing, I know, USE SPARINGLY. Promise. On the pores topic, I just pulled out a forgotten tube of Neutrogena Pore minimizing Gel Mask and have fallen in love with it all over again. My chin looks much smoother, nose is a bit better. It’s a relatively cheapeasy fix for a night where you’re goin out and wanna look better than usual. Notice how husbands say “I don’t know why you go to all the trouble – I see you when you wake up.” Don’t they know it’s really to impress other women?… Read more »

Wendy
Guest
Wendy

Hi Amy! I’m an esthetician so I do use this tool during the extraction portion of the facial. I do NOT recommend any person (other than a professional) to use this. You can damage the skin and spread bacteria…just like you said. As you know, during facials your face gets steamed which helps open up the pores…which makes doing extractions much easier. I also have a rule…if you poke at it 3 times and it doesn’t come out, it’s not ready. I’ve seen too many ladies come in with scars from this tool. Just leave it to the pros please!!!!

rader5
Guest
rader5

I couldn’t disagree more. I was actually googling for ‘”pore extractor”, amazing’ to see if others have had the success I’ve had. Here’s what you do: 1) take a shower wash your face, lots of hot water, I usually do a glycolic peel (30%) briefly before extracting. 2) keep a hot towel over your nose before you use it, you need to open your pores. 3) use the flat broad end (not round, not lancet), push hard and scrape along your skin. (Do not use the lancet, that’s why you all have bad results!) Yes push hard, but you want… Read more »

queen
Guest
queen

Where can I find this pimples extractor